Exploring South East Asia: A Cruise Through Burma
By Luke Dowley
In my travels I have never been one to enjoy the conventional cruise ship excursion. Often, these large floating hotels just float from country to country, allowing their thousands of passengers out for a day or two of beach relaxation before moving on to the next location, with no cultural interaction.
This method of travel may appeal to some, and I am by no means resigning this style of vacation to the mundane, I just prefer a slightly more intimate experience when seeking out my methods of exploration.
So where does one go when they are seeking the luxury and relaxation of a cruise ship, but wish to escape the droves of vacationers and packed decks? The answer may surprise you.
Ancient golden pagodas surrounded by lush green forestry, cities teaming with vibrant culture, and a breath taking landscape to rival any, welcome to The Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
More commonly known as Burma, this country shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand, bringing together many of Asia’s iconic cultures into a melange of beauty and history.
So where do cruises fall into this mix? While Myanmar coastline does make up one third of its border, the only way to see this land by boat is along the Irrawaddy River, which cuts its way down the center of the country.
Tom Harper River Journeys is a Boston based company that specialize in river cruises in destinations reaching across the globe.
Priding themselves on the providing the “most indulgent” of experiences in there areas of travel, Tom Harper River Journeys inspires you to look to the “real” reason you are on your adventure, to escape the turning wheel of life and enter the extraordinary.
Now, just because you will be exploring as Tom Sawyer and Joe Harper did on the Mississippi (Tom-Harper) does not mean that relaxation on these adventures isn’t paramount. In fact, the level of luxury to be found on their excursions rivals much of what you would find in fine hotels firmly rooted to the ground, not drifting along the river bank.
The RV Irrawaddy Explorer, Their choice vessel for traveling down the Irrawaddy, is no exception to this high standard of luxury.
Just 28 Suites
Forget thousands fellow cruise goers, this small ship houses just 28 suites and is designed for the most intimate of experiences with your surroundings. Of the four styles of suite, all have their own balcony looking out over the water, with the Mandalay suite being the largest as a spacious 409 square feet. Full butler service, complimentary spa visits, and shoe shinning only scratch the surface of this package.
Beyond the luxurious rooming accommodations, you’ll find that the lavish design of this ship extends to all corners, with fine dinning and plenty of places to lay out on deck as you drift along.
Although descriptions of the ship are enough to entice those in search of the most relaxing of excursions, what really makes this adventure to South East Asia special is the expanses of land you will be able to see while you’re there.
Taking it In
On most of my trips I utilize what I will refer to as conventional modes of travel: flight to the destination, train rides between cities, and exploration on foot. While this technique has its benefits, it does establish significant distinctions between my travel time and my time to explore (it’s quite difficult to slow down a train to enjoy the view!).
By traveling through Myanmar via cruise along the Irrawaddy River, you will be able to slowly take in the views drifting by, and stop at many points in-between to get up close to the countless riverside sights to be seen.
The tour last 12 days, with 10 days spent traveling down the river. The group convenes in Yangon, former capital of Myanmar and the largest city in the country, where after a day to settle after a long flight you will experience a full city tour and a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Known in english as the Great Dragon Pagoda, this ornate golden religious monument can be seen for miles as it stands over three hundred feet tall. It is over two thousand years old.
The next day it is time to embark the RV Irrawaddy Explorer, and begin the cruise north with a night of dinner and entertainment with the other guests, in route to the first destination: Thayetmyo.
Each day relaxation time will be mixed with excursions off of the ship. In Magwe you will visit the Myat Than Lun Pagoda, constructed out of solid gold bricks. In Tan Kyi the group will travel to the top of a nearby mountain to watch the sunset over the Bagan plains. Each stop will allow you to explore with the assistance of knowledgeable staff who have experienced the adventure many times themselves and are happy to show you the beauty the country has to offer.
Tom Harper River Journeys’ package in Myanmar in perfect for those looking to break away from the world of conventional luxury cruises and explore an exotic land without losing the feeling of a relaxing extended stay.
The trip runs twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, with pricing starting at $4499 per person. Extensions to the journey are available for both before and after the cruise for those who are looking to explore nearby Bangkok or Inle Lake.
For more information, be sure to check out Tom Harper River Journeys website.
Luke Dowley is a former Editorial Assistant for GoNOMAD.com who has started a company using drone aircraft for photography based in Amherst MA.
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